During the last week of January, Dr. Marschhausen and I facilitated our first Listening Leaders tour. These events were opportunities for us to hear the questions, concerns, and perspectives of our community members. In order to live our growth mindset, we have to understand the concerns of our stakeholders so that we know where potential opportunities for improvement may be. Those that attended had great questions and issues to discuss with us. The issues that arose from our discussions ranged across several topics, but there were three themes that seemed to be consistently addressed: student wellness, educational opportunities, and dealing with growth.
The mental health issues that students face today are varied. From anxiety and bullying on social media to depression and dealing with change that new academic and extra-curricular opportunities introduce, students (and parents) today must find the skills to develop and maintain mental wellness. Hilliard City Schools has taken several steps in the past couple of years to provide resources for both students and parents in dealing with wellness and mental health issues. Through Federal grant money, we have been able to help fund new positions in our schools for wellness. Namely, we are now able to expand the number of Licensed Social Workers. We also have added counselors to the middle and high schools with plans to expand these services at the elementary level. Additionally, we are doing more work to educate kids with the Signs of Suicide program, Hope Squads, and the Ruling our Experiences (ROX) program.
Again, this year we will be partnering with the Dublin City Schools to provide educational opportunities for parents around mental health issues. Our second Be Well event will be from 8 AM to 3 PM on Saturday, February 29, 2020, at Darby High School. Sessions will include topics such as substance abuse, bullying, coping strategies, academic and social pressure, and more.
Much is happening around the district in terms of educational opportunities. Our teachers are using data more than ever to drive curriculum and personalization of the educational experience of our students. Every student is different, with their own unique strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, and futures. To better serve all of our students, we have also continued to expand our partnerships with industry leaders such as Amazon, Worthington Industries, Chase, and Cardinal Health to provide innovative programs and hands-on learning opportunities.
Research and data show sustained and significant math growth for children that have the opportunity for all-day kindergarten. In the 2020-2021 school year, we will continue to expand our offering of all-day kindergarten and bring Darby Creek, Alton Darby, Hoffman Trails, Brown, and Beacon on to the list of the elementary schools with all-day K. Additionally, using the campus concept, our Britton-Norwich Campus will be open in the 20-21 school year. We are in the beginning stages of planning for the Alton-Darby Creek Campus as well. Balancing efficiency, building capacity, and educational programming is a challenge that we will continue to face.
Our Board of Education and district leadership will continue to find ways to provide the educational programming that is expected by all of the parents in the district and embrace neighborhood schools, however; growth and change are constant in our district. The reality is, that as certain areas of our community continue to be impacted by residential growth, building capacity (and with it the ability to maintain educational offerings for all students) becomes unbalanced. In the near future, we will need to consider redistricting at the elementary level. With the continued work of our Master Facility Planning Committee, the Board of Education will be making decisions about addressing growth over the coming months.
I speak for the Board when I say that we appreciate and need to hear your thoughts and concerns as we move forward. We face challenges at all stages of the educational process and strive to be good stewards of your tax dollars. We have developed our NextX plan, which is our vision for the future of education in the Hilliard City Schools. However, a vision is only as good as your ability to get there. Our annual Commitment Plan, which is shorter-term goals, is our roadmap that we believe will move us toward our vision in a measured and intentional way. We can always do better, and your questions, perspectives, and insights are invaluable to help us grow and improve. If you didn’t get the chance to come and share with us in January, the Listening Leaders tour will occur quarterly. Feel free to attend a Board meeting as well to share.
Mark Abate, Board of Education President